This weekend Monocacy National Battlefield will kick off activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of “the battle that saved Washington.” As the Civil War sesquicentennial enters its fourth summer of events, we are very excited to be on tap. Along with two other National Park Service sites, Harpers Ferry National Historic Site and Fort Stevens, Monocacy will commemorate events associated with the third and final Confederate invasion of the north, which was undertaken with the ultimate goal of attacking the nation’s capitol and diverting Union attention and resources from the Richmond-Petersburg campaign.
For Monocacy, the sesquicentennial represents a unique opportunity. It is the first big anniversary to arise since the park fully opened to the public in the early 1990s. As such, there is an extra level of excitement and anticipation among park staff and partners, who share a sense that this is more than a commemoration. It is also an opportunity to throw open the gates and introduce the park to a large number of visitors, including what we hope will be many first time visitors.
As such, in addition to planning a wide variety of programs and events to be held on July 5-13, we have been working hard to improve trails, roads, signs, waysides, buildings and other infrastructure. Because many of the programs are being offered for the first time and will introduce visitors to new stories and new areas of the park, we find ourselves collapsing what would normally be years of work into a matter of months. In a short amount of time, the park and its partners have completed a remarkable number of improvements within and around the park.
I started to compile a comprehensive list before realizing it would be ludicrously long. Instead, I’ll mention the following highlights:
We have installed 22 new interpretive waysides throughout the park, most of which are located within newly constructed viewing platforms at key points of interest in the park. One of the waysides is located within a newly created vehicular pull-off, which now serves as an additional stop on the park’s auto tour.
We’ve installed a six rail fence along MD 355 in front of the park’s visitor center. This fence recreates an historic fence line and helps to define the boundary of the battlefield to visitors and passing motorists.
Thanks to the efforts of a local Eagle Scout, visitors can now follow numbered wayfinding signs that clearly demarcate the park’s auto tour.
With the cooperation and assistance of the MD State Highway Administration, new road signs have been installed along MD 355 providing direction from the visitor center to different areas of the park.
On a larger scale, MD State Highways Administration worked closely with the Tourism Council of Frederick County to design and install new highway signs on I-70 and I-270 that provide, for the first time in the park’s history, a comprehensive network of signs directing motorists to the visitor center. The value of this improvement cannot be overstated.
We have cleaned out the Thomas Barn, the basement of Worthington House, and the first floor of the Best House to accommodate new programs planned for the 150th. After 20 years of preservation and rehabilitation work, these areas were understandably a mess. Now that they are cleaned out, we hope to use them as regular program venues.
We improved access from the Best Farm to the NJ Monument to allow visitors to trace the path of advancing Confederate troops. We also improved access from Gambrill Mill across Bush Creek to allow people to visit the Union rifle pits along the southeastern bluff of the Monocacy River.
We have opened up access to the entire Thomas Farm by removing fencing and vegetation that blocked views and access to the Thomas main house and tenant house.
All of these changes relate directly to new programs being developed for the 150th. However, we expect they will continue to pay dividends well beyond the next two weeks by opening up new opportunities for visitors to experience the park. We hope you can come join us for one or more of our sesquicentennial events. If you do, please take note of some of the changes we’ve made. We’d like people to recognize that even as we look back on 150 years of history, our gaze is trained on the extremely promising future of this young park.
For complete information on programs and events, please visit: http://www.nps.gov/mono/planyourvisit/monocacy-150.htm